DAY 12 – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17: DOMITILLA CATACOMBS, ST. PAUL’S CHURCH OUTSIDE THE WALLS, THE COLOSSEUM, CONSTANTINE’S & TITUS’ ARCH, THE FORUM, ST. JOHN LATERAN, SACRED STEPS
Today was our first of two full days in Rome. Rome is a large city of 6 million (3 million living inside the city limits, with 3 million living around the city). There are 453 churches in Rome. The ancient Roman walls that we saw from tie to time throughout the day (dating from 269-275 AD) are 11 miles long.The weather was perfect, with full sun and highs in the 70s. Our driver (Angelo) and our guide (Paulo) were excellent as well!
After a great breakfast, we departed at 8:30 and drove straight to the Domitilla Catacombs. This is one of the three largest underground cemeteries in Rome (a total of 64 catacombs have been discovered). This one was the first Christian graveyard and it dates from about 200 – 800 AD. This catacombs here consist of 4 labyrinth layers of graves spanning about 15 miles. It was incredible to see so many of them.
St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls
From here we visited St. Paul’s Church Outside the Walls. The church originally goes back to 330 AD. It was rebuilt many times. A fire in 1823 destroyed it, but it was rebuilt shortly later in 1827. By tradition, Paul was buried here. The traditional hand cuffs that bound Paul are also displayed here. 267 Popes are also displayed here all around the sanctuary. The church is owned and maintained by Vatican City.
“Rome is amazing! Everywhere you look there is either archaeological Roman ruins or beautiful buildings. While we walked a lot today, we also saw a lot! The Colosseum and the Roman Forum were my two most favorite visits today!” -Tour Member-
Next we drove past the Circus Maximus (a stadium that held 300,000 people to the area of the Colosseum. After lunch on our own (it was fun to explore the small restaurants!), we visited this massive amphitheater that was built between 72-90 AD. The first 8 years was just to prepare the foundation and lower levels. Over 300 tons of iron (e.g. pins) was used to hold the structure together.
The Colosseum held up to 70,000 people. Gladiators fought here for 450 years against both animals and other men. By last use of the Colosseum was 523 AD. Later, two earthquakes destroyed about half of this structure. Going inside the Colosseum was amazing! We first went to the top for a panoramic view. We then descended down to the lower level. 54 lifts or trap doors were used to lift both animals and gladiators.
Constantine’s & Titus’ Arch
Exiting the Colosseum we next past by Constantine’s Arch. This was built in 315. It is one of seven arches still standing today. Titus’ Arch was built shortly after the Jerusalem campaign in 70 AD. Inside of this are the Menorah can still be seen.
Before leaving the area, we walked through the Roman Forum. We past by all kinds of Roman structures, pillars, and the open area of this ancient marketplace. Standing by the Basilica of Julia and the Temple of Castor & Pollux, we read from Acts 28 (28:11 mentions these two “twin gods” of Jupiter, gods of protection for sea-farers and warriors), and Romans 15 and 16. Flowing Paul’s successful ministry here in Rome (and probably in Spain), he comes back to Rome where he is tried most likely in the Basilica of Julia. He was beheaded in 67 AD. God used him in amazing ways to spread the Gospel to so many! It was special to stand nearby where he was condemned to death. He gave his life for the cause of Christ!
St. John’s Lateran Church & Sacred Steps
Our last stop of the day was to St. John’s Lateran Church (formerly called Church of our Savior). This was the very first official church, built in 313 AD (St. Peter’s Cathedral was built in 319-326 AD). This church was later redone in the 1500s. The new Pope always comes here and appoints the Bishop of Rome here. Across the street we also briefly visited the Sacred Steps. As a monk, Martin Luther climbed these steps on his knees, trying to merit forgiveness.
We returned back to our hotel for dinner. Many in the group then caught the subway for a visit to St. Peter’s Square. We will be visiting here tomorrow morning! What a great first day here in Rome!